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The United States will spend $42 billion to make Internet access universal by 2030

WASHINGTON, June 26 (Reuters) – The White House on Monday split $42 billion among the nation’s 50 states and U.S. territories to make high-speed broadband access universal by 2030, launching a new ad campaign for President Joe Biden’s economic policies.

Funding under the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program was authorized under the Biden-backed $1 trillion infrastructure bill of 2021. The spend will be based on a recently released Federal Communications Commission coverage map detailing gaps in access.

Texas and California, the two most populous states in the United States, top the funding list with $3.1 billion and $1.9 billion, respectively. But other less populous states like Virginia, Alabama and Louisiana made it into the top 10 in funding due to lack of broadband access. These states have large rural areas with less internet connectivity than their major cities.

“It’s the largest investment ever in high-speed Internet. Because for today’s economy to work for everyone, Internet access is just as important as electricity, water, or other basic utilities,” Biden said in a White House address Monday.

Prizes range from $27 million to US territories like the US Virgin Islands to more than $3.3 billion for Texas, with each state receiving a minimum of $107 million.

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The announcement kicks off the second leg of Biden’s tour, highlighting how legislation passed when his Democratic Party-controlled Congress will affect average Americans, as his 2024 re-election bid gears up.

As part of the sales pitch, Biden will also deliver what White House officials describe as a major economic speech in Chicago Wednesday, introducing so-called “Bidenomics,” according to a Monday memo from senior advisers Anita Dunn and Mike Donilon to congressional Democrats and other allies.

The 2024 election will be seen in part as a referendum on Biden’s handling of the economy. Job creation and low unemployment are on the bright side, while high inflation and the knock-on effect of higher interest rates have fueled recession fears.

More than half — 54 percent — of Americans disapprove of the way Biden is delivering his job, while only 35 percent of respondents approved of his handling of the economy, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted earlier this month. Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives in the 2022 midterm elections.

The administration estimates that there are approximately 8.5 million locations in the United States that lack access to broadband connections.

Broadband companies such as Verizon (VZ.N), Comcast (CMCSA.O), Charter Communications (CHTR.O), and AT&T (TN) have been reluctant to provide access to low-population rural communities because investments are expensive and regions don’t offer many subscribers. Lack of broadband access has garnered attention during the COVID-19 shutdowns that have forced students to attend school online.

States are expected to submit initial plans later this year that will unlock 20 percent of the funding. Once the plans, which could take until 2025, are finalized, the government will release the remaining money.

Reporting by Jeff Mason and Jarrett Renshaw; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Scott Malone, Chris Reese and Lisa Shumaker

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Jeff Mason is a White House correspondent for Reuters. He has covered the presidencies of Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden and the presidential campaigns of Biden, Trump, Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. He served as president of the White House Correspondents Association from 2016-2017, leading the press corps in defending press freedom in the early days of the Trump administration. His work and that of the WHCA has been awarded the “Freedom of Speech Award” by Deutsche Welle. Jeff asked pointed questions of domestic and foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. He is a winner of the WHCA’s “Excellence in Presidential News Coverage Under Deadline Pressure” award and co-winner of the Association for Business Journalists’ “Breaking News” award. Jeff began his career in Frankfurt, Germany as a business reporter before being posted to Brussels, Belgium where he covered the European Union. Jeff appears regularly on television and radio and teaches political journalism at Georgetown University. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a Fulbright Scholar.

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